Archive of July 1, 2004

Expert explains disturbing logic of beheadings by Muslim extremists

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - The recent beheading of American Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia by Muslim extremists is not simply an attack against Americans but one in a stream of attacks against Christians and “infidels,” says Paul Marshall in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard.

The senior fellow at Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom and Islam expert wrote an article on the subject, called “War against the Infidels: The message behind the beheadings.” It appears in the July 5 edition of the publication.

In his article, Marshall states that the extremists, whose beheadings of two Americans and one South Korean have made headlines recently, have many more enemies than the Americans and a much larger goal than simply crippling the oil industry in Saudi Arabia. Their goal is to rid the Muslim world of “infidels” or unbelievers of Islam, argues Marshall.

This goal is clearly expressed in a quote that Marshall cites in his article. He reports that the man who claimed responsibility for Johnson’s death, Abdelaziz al-Muqrin, said: "We renew our determination to repel the crusader forces and their arrogance, to liberate the land of Muslims, to apply sharia [Islamic law] and cleanse the Arabian Peninsula of infidels."

Al-Muqrin, who was reportedly killed June 18, also claimed responsibility for the May 29 massacre of 22 people in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

Marshall’s article includes excerpts from a chilling interview with a Saudi terrorist about the massacre in Khobar, published in full on the al Qaeda-linked Web site, Sawt Al-Jihad, and translated from Arabic by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

In the interview, the Muslim extremist recounts how the terrorists dragged a British man naked behind a car, shot an American businessman in the head, slit the throats of a South African, an Italian and several Hindus, beheaded a Swede and put his head at the gate, and cut the throats of several Filipino Christians, dedicating them “to our brothers the Mujahideen in the Philippines.”

“That same day, we purged Muhammad's land of many Christians and polytheists,” the terrorist was quoted as saying.

Beheadings not about Iraq, foreign policy

Extremists have killed those they consider “infidels” or “polytheists”, regardless of their involvement in the coalition in Iraq, says Marshall in the Weekly Standard.

The author of “Islam at the Crossroads” points out that most of the Islamist terrorists' victims are Asian and Middle Eastern Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. For several years, extremists have also victimized Muslims who do not share their vision, writes Marshall, citing the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in Algeria and Sudan's National Islamic Front.

These killings are not about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Israel, U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, or current foreign policy, writes Marshall in the Weekly Standard, but rather, “an apocalyptic war to purge the world of all but [the extremists’] version of Islam.

“Al Qaeda's enemy is anyone who opposes its program for the restoration of a unified Muslim ummah, … organized to wage jihad on the rest of the world,” writes Marshall in the Weekly Standard.

“The lesson of Riyadh, Khobar, and Paul Marshall Johnson is that we can resist this program, in which case, tragically, we may well see more videos of beheadings. Or we can acquiesce to this program and see a great many more beheadings,” he writes in the Weekly Standard. “These are the choices.

“We are in a war we must win,” he continues. “Everything else is wishful thinking.”

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Second largest church in the world dedicated to Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

Rome, Italy, Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - The hundreds of pilgrims who each year visit the Italian village of San Giovanni Rotondo to pray to Padre Pio will now be able to do so in the second largest church in the world, which is dedicated to the Italian saint and was consecrated today.

With a Mass concelebrated by 10 Cardinals, 120 bishops and 500 priests, the new Church of St. Pio opened its doors for the first time to the vast number of visitors who travel to the small Italian village each year.

Surpassed in size only by St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, the new church that has knocked London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral into third place was designed by the famous architect Renzo Piano and can seat more than seven thousand people in its interior and more than 30,000 in the square outside.

Construction began 10 years ago in response to the need to welcome pilgrims who come each year to visit the tomb of the Italian saint.

An estimated 40,000 people were expected to attend today’s ceremony.

The church is built in the form of an oval, with 21 arches and a 1600 square-foot window, with currents made from a special fabric designed by NASA.

The interior was decorated by Italian artists Domenico Palladino, Giuliano Bangui and Arnaldo Pomodoro, who designed the bronze cross which hangs above the main altar.

More than 320 stone blocks and 332,000 square feet of concrete were used in the construction. The cross built outside the church reaches 131 feet, and more than 1,500 trees were planted in the area around the square. Inside, the organ is made up of more than 7,000 pipes.

Devotion to Padre Pio is widespread throughout Italy. The three Italians who were recently kidnapped and freed in Iraq traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo to express their gratitude to Padre Pio for their release.

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Pope prays for "spiritual" vacation season, young churches

Vatican City, Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father's general prayer intention for the month of July is:

"That all those who are able to benefit from a holiday period during this time of the year may be helped during their vacation to rediscover in God their inner harmony and to open themselves to the love of human beings."

His missionary intention is: "That in the young Churches the lay faithful may receive more attention and may be turned to greater account for evangelization."

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Catholic League says HBO special on celibacy “maligns Church”

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - In a statement released on Wednesday, the Catholic League criticized the HBO special “Celibacy,” a documentary in the “America Undercover” series, aired on June 28.

The documentary purports to be an examination of celibacy as it is practiced in the world’s religions.

According to the Catholic League’s statement, “after a cursory glance at celibacy in eastern religions, if focuses almost exclusively on Roman Catholicism.  The overall theme is voiced at the outset: ‘The worldwide crisis in the Catholic Church begs many questions:  Is sexual denial healthy?  Or can it become something dangerous?  Is there any link between enforced celibacy and an apparent epidemic of child abuse by the clergy?’”

“It is not for nothing that the term ‘enforced celibacy’ or ‘imposed’ is repeated constantly,” said Catholic League president William Donohue.  “By doing so, the message of coercion is made explicit.”

“For example –he continued- we learn that the Catholic Church formally invoked the discipline of celibacy in 1139 as ‘a powerful tool for controlling its army.’  Similarly, we discover that ‘The need to suppress the most powerful drive on this planet is the key to understanding many Catholic practices and rituals.’  To drive the point home, a bloody video of self-flagellating Filipinos on Good Friday is shown.”

“The viewer is also treated to the perspective of an embittered ex-priest, Richard Sipe, who asserts that homosexuals and sociopaths are drawn to the celibate priesthood, a comment that should go over big in the gay community,” continued the statement.

“Moreover, stories of sexual abuse are described in graphic detail, if only to contrast them with happy tales of priests who bolted and married.  Then there is Robert, a pedophile priest who admits that castration set him free.”

“Finally, there is Archbishop John Foley, a Vatican official who is set up to appear foolish.  After distorting the travails of Galileo, the clincher question is delivered:  ‘How long will it take the Church to come to terms with the nature of human sexuality?’  The video cuts immediately to Archbishop Foley, who says, ‘I do not see any connection between mandatory celibacy and inappropriate sexual activity.’”

“In short, the HBO special on ‘Celibacy’ is to truth telling about the Catholic Church what Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ is to truth telling about the U.S.-Iraqi war.  Both are masterpieces of deception and propaganda,” concluded the statement.

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Mary Ann Glendon says "poor can't wait," speaking on behalf of the Holy See

Vatican City, Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking on behalf of the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, has voiced an urgent call “for the family of nations to attend to the needs of its most vulnerable members. As Pope John Paul II has insisted,” she said, “‘the poor cannot wait.’”

Professor Glendon headed the Holy See delegation to the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s 2004 High Level Segment of Least Developed Countries, in New York on June 29.

The theme of the assembly was “Resource Mobilization and Enabling Environment for Poverty Eradication in the Context of the Implementation of the Program of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2002-2010.”

“No one can deny that the challenge to reverse what often appears to be a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty, especially of LDCs, is formidable,” said Glendon. “These challenges must not be used as excuses, but rather to spur us on to greater effort,” she added.

Glendon said in concluding that “the Holy See wishes to emphasize that any measure to promote authentic and lasting development must be protective of human dignity and culture. ... What is needed is a change of heart, that the international community may be ever bolder, more generous, more creative, more energetic in its struggle to finally end the division of the world into areas of poverty and plenty.”

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Bishop to decide Tucson Diocese bankruptcy in September

Tucson, Ariz., Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson (Arizona) announced on  Wednesday that he will make a decision about whether the Diocese will file for bankruptcy protection before a scheduled Sept. 15 sexual abuse trial.

During a meeting with the “Tucson Citizen” editorial board, Bishop Kicanas said that the trial scheduled in Yuma County Superior Court  “is looming on the horizon,” and that bankruptcy protection is looking more like the best and only option, given lack of progress in mediating a settlement of 19 pending clergy sexual abuse lawsuits and the prospect of more.

Negotiations between the diocese and plaintiffs in the pending lawsuits stalled earlier in June.  The diocese already owes $3 million payment due by 2007 as a consequence of the 2002 settlement with 10 men victimized as children by four local clergy.

Kicanas, who became the sixth Bishop of Tucson on March 7, 2003, explained that the diocese's long-term financial stability is in jeopardy  because it is not self-sufficient and its resources are inadequate to carry on its pastoral mission without help from other church subsidies.

Kicanas told the Tucson Citizen  that the diocese “had to borrow a great deal of money” to pay for the first settlements. Besides, most properties that could be sold are of little substantive value in remote communities.

The filing for Chapter 11 would allow the church to continue to operate but would subject its finances to court scrutiny.

“Some people feel that Chapter 11 is shirking the duty of the Church," he said. "I don't see it that way. I think it's the very best way that we can exercise a response to those who have been hurt,” he concluded.

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Archdiocese of Boston finalizes property sale to Boston College

Boston, Mass., Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - Boston College have announced it has finalized the purchase of most of the Archdiocese of Boston’s headquarters for $99.4 million.

The Catholic college now owns 43 of the archdiocese's 64 acres, including the residence of Cardinal Bernard Law and his predecessors.

The 43 acres include St. Clement's Hall and St. Williams Hall, a retreat house that the archdiocese used for the training of lay ministers.

The property includes the tomb of  Cardinal William O'Connell, whose remains will be removed by the Archdiocese after arrangements with his surviving relatives.

“While change is always difficult, the knowledge that the property will benefit another Catholic institution is reassuring,” said Cullen Buckland, an archdiocesan spokesman.

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, announced in April that he had decided to sell the property to finance an $85 million settlement with clergy sexual-abuse victims.

Before deciding to sell the former residence of the Cardinals of Boston, O’Malley, a Franciscan Capuchin,  moved to the rectory of a downtown parish to be closer to the Cathedral.

Boston College will also buy a tribunal building two years from now for another $8 million, and the archdiocese has a five-year option to sell its chancery for $20 million and St. John's Seminary for $38.8 million.

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Federal court prohibits distribution of “morning after pill” in Chile

Santiago, Chile, Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - A federal judge in Santiago has issued a ruling prohibiting the sale and the marketing of the morning after pill, because the drug’s anti-implantation mechanism qualifies it as abortifacient under Chilean law.

Judge Silvia Papa ruled in favor of banning the drug in a case that was brought before the court more than a year ago by Alejandro Romero, a lawyer and professor at the University of the Andes, against the Institute of Public Health.

In Chile, the morning after pill was first introduced in the market under the name Postinal, but its principal agent has always been Levonorgestrel. In 2001, the Supreme Court prohibited the sale of Postinal because of its abortifacient nature but it did not issue a direct ruling on Levonorgestrel.

For this reason, manufactures of Levonorgestrel labeled the drug with different names, such as Postinor 2, in order to continue selling it in the country.

The 40-page ruling by Judge Papa nullifies the authorization to market the drug.  She said her decision to accept the case was based on legal rather than moral principles.

The ruling means that authorities must remove Postinor 2 from the market immediately, as well as any other product that contains Levonorgestrel 0,75 mg, even if it is given out free of charge or by order of the government.

The director of the Institute of Public Health, Rodrigo Salinas, announced he would appeal the decision but he acknowledged that if the Supreme Court again rules against in the drug, the government will follow the decision.

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Spanish bishop calls legalization of homosexual unions by government an aberration

Madrid, Spain, Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Gea Escolano of Mondoñedo-Ferrol, Spain, said this week the Spanish government’s plan to legalize homosexual unions next year is “an aberration.”

Speaking on Radio Lugo, Bishop Gea Escolano said this plan would result in practically the destruction of family and marriage “as we know it.”   Therefore, he called the government’s plan to legalize homosexual unions “an aberration,” underscoring that Pope John Paul II “alluded to the issue during his visit with the President of the government.”

Bishop Gea Escolano said he could not understand why the government is “so insistent” upon accepting such a request, which he said “cannot be accepted and which is against the family.”

He also suggested that with the new government moral values may be eroded.

Later Bishop Gea Escolano highlighted three points mentioned by Pope John Paul II during his visit with President Zapatero: abortion, which is the taking of human life; homosexual unions and equating them with the family and even opening the door to adoption by such couples; and the removal of religion from public school curriculums.

The bishop asked, “What kind of positive future can there be for our society.”  “As far as the government is concerned, none,” he answered.

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Canada celebrates the ‘Saint of the Ordinary’

Quebec City, Canada, Jul 1, 2004 (CNA) - Masses were held in eight cities across Canada last week to celebrate the feast day of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. Pope John Paul II canonnized the Spanish priest in 2002, calling him the “saint of the ordinary”.

Marc Cardinal Ouellet celebrated the feast day mass June 26 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec City, attended by 500 people. The archbishop of Quebec and primate of Canada described St. Josemaria as a prophet of the universal call to holiness and a pioneer in promoting the role of the laity through the sanctification of ordinary work.

Cardinal Ouellet described the discreet presence of Opus Dei members in the world like leaven in dough. The “dough” rises because of the strength of their witness and because they have learned how to cultivate an intense spiritual life in the midst of secular activities. As they receive continuous formation, Opus Dei members are able to make an impact in their surroundings, he said, especially in current social and ethical debates.

The cardinal, who had worked in the Vatican office for ecumenical relations, said he saw in St. Josemaria a fruitful path for the future of ecumenism. More than commissions and meetings, it is the saints, through their inspiration of popular piety, who will really bring about the unity of the Church, he said.

Bishop Anthony Mancini, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Montreal, presided over the mass at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral. Msgr. Frederick Dolan, the regional vicar of Opus Dei in Canada, gave the homily.

Other feast day masses in Canada were celebrated in Kingston, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

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